Spezza admits ‘picture is not looking good’ for Sens’ playoff chances


After a rough weekend in which they only managed to secure one point from two games, the Ottawa Senators know their playoff outlook appears grim.

Just ask the captain.

“The picture is not looking good right now,” Jason Spezza said, per the Ottawa Citizen. “So we can’t look at it.”

Ottawa came into this weekend essentially needing all four points, but saw those hopes dashed after blowing a 4-1 lead over Montreal with less than four minutes remaining on Saturday — eventually losing in OT — then losing against Colorado on Sunday despite outshooting the Avs 39-22.

As such, the Sens are now in serious danger of missing the postseason for just the third time in the last 17 seasons — and missing would be a major disappointment. Losing long-serving captain Daniel Alfredsson to free agency in the summer was a potential foreshadow for struggle, and the team looked shaky out of the gate by going just 10-11-4 over its first 25 games of the season.

That said, Ottawa did rally to go into the Olympic break in reasonably good shape — 26-22-11 — and ID’d itself as a buyer at the trade deadline, sending a pair of picks to Edmonton in exchange for Ales Hemsky.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of reaction owner Eugene Melnyk will receive should the Sens miss the playoffs. He’s been highly-criticized throughout the year for both how the Alfredsson situation played out, and the club’s internal salary cap — Ottawa is operating at around $56 million, and part of the Hemsky deal was contingent upon Edmonton picking up some of his salary.

That review might be a bit premature, though, because it’s not like the Sens are throwing in the towel on this season just yet.

“We’ve got to win games,” Spezza said. “We’ve got 15 games left. We’re not going to throw in the towel right now. We’ve still got to play the games. We’re frustrated with this weekend, especially because we knew it was an important weekend.

“But we’ve got 15 games left. Let’s see if we can put something together here. I’ve seen it done before.”

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
Leave a comment

The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”